By Chris Foster
10:41 PM PST, December 19, 2013
Those sticking to the numbers would not expect UCLA senior Cassius Marsh to be high on an NFL team's shopping list.
His 6-foot-4 frame checks in around 260 pounds, far below the beef normally found on an NFL defensive line. Yet that smaller stature has helped him become a player likely to go mid-round in the spring.
"What they are looking for are good football players, first and foremost," said UCLA defensive coordinator Lou Spanos, who spent 17 seasons as an NFL assistant. "They come in all different sizes and shapes."
Marsh has certainly established himself as a good football player. He has 10.5 tackles for a loss, including six sacks, this season. Only linebacker Anthony Barr has more.
"What he brings to the table is a knack for the football and his pass rushing ability," Spanos said. "He makes plays."
In part because of his weight.
Marsh was 300 pounds by the end of his freshman year. He played in 11 games, starting in four, but "wasn't comfortable," he said.
"I felt I was a long, explosive athlete," Marsh said. So he worked off the weight. He has started every game the last two seasons and has 21 tackles for a loss, including 14 sacks.
"It surprises me how fast I have gotten," Marsh said. "I have chased down running backs and they're said to be fast."
Where that will land him next season remains to be seen.
But, he said, "I'm sure I'll find a place on the field."
Marsh said he has even heard a couple of NFL teams might want him as a tight end. He has been used as a blocker in short-yardage and goal-line situations. He also has two touchdown receptions the last two seasons.
But defense is where his mind is.
"I'm confident in my ability as an athlete and my ability to do everything," Marsh said. "What makes me special is that I am a playmaker wherever you put me."
The Bruins are focused on Virginia Tech and the Hyundai Sun Bowl. But it doesn't take much prodding to reveal those warm and fuzzy feelings that come from beating USC in the Coliseum.
"To beat USC in their house, that was what I had been waiting for since I was a little boy," cornerback Brandon Sermons said.
Rodney Sermons, his brother, was a USC running back from 1994 to '97. He never beat UCLA.
"I didn't want to follow in his footsteps," Sermons said. "I knew UCLA was the place for me to go, and beat them."
Sermons, who severely broke his leg in 2010, had a big hand in the victory. He started in place of Fabian Moreau, who pulled a hamstring against Arizona State.
It was Sermons' third career start, but his first at cornerback.
Sermons was part of a defensive effort that smothered USC. The Trojans, with high-profile receivers, did not have a catch for more than 22 yards.
Moreau is trying to work himself back to play against Virginia Tech.
"It's different being out on the field and contributing to the team's win," Sermons said. "I couldn't ask for more against USC."
Offensive lineman Ben Wysocki agreed. He came off the bench after tackle Caleb Benenoch was ejected and was part of an offensive effort that rolled up 396 yards in the 35-14 victory. He is back to being a reserve, but "that USC game is etched in stone."
Linebacker Eric Kendricks has not practiced this week because of a sore ankle. His availability for the Virginia Tech game is unknown.
Kendricks led UCLA in tackles for a second consecutive season with 106, the third-most of any Pac-12 player. He had ankle surgery this summer.
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